UNC Police Announce New Therapy Dog

The as yet unnamed female Goldendoodle puppy will work directly with Community Services Officer Destin Wylie (Photo: UNC Police Department)

A therapy dog has joined the UNC Police Department and will begin working with students, faculty and staff after she undergoes training.

The as-yet unnamed female Goldendoodle puppy will work directly with Community Services Officer Destiny Wylie, who said adding a therapy dog to campus police has been a top priority for her because she considers it vital for a healthy campus community. “Mental health is a big topic right now, so providing the therapy dog for students, faculty and staff is a great idea,” Wylie said.

Research shows therapy dogs positively impact students’ moods, and they have become more prevalent on college campuses, according to Inside Higher Ed. The dogs typically serve as comfort animals to students, visit campuses during high-stress times and work alongside public safety officers.

After Zijie Yan, a professor and nanoscience researcher was killed in a campus shooting on Aug. 28 last year, local nonprofit HAPPEE Hugs and Pups brought a Wheaten Terrier named Murphy to campus for students to pet. Murphy isn’t a therapy dog, but Cathy Emrick, chair of the HAPPEE Board of Directors, said the organization has been coming to campus four times a week since the 2020–21 academic year following three UNC student deaths. “I think it’s fantastic for campus police to have a therapy dog,” Emrick said. “Dogs are incredibly powerful when it comes to comfort and easing stress. We see it every week.”

Police have asked the campus community to choose a name for the Goldendoodle. Survey participants can choose from four names inspired by alumnae: Brooke Baldwin ’01, journalist and former CNN anchor and correspondent; Mia Hamm ’94, who won four NCAA national championships while on the women’s soccer team at UNC and was a two-time Olympic gold medalist; Gwendolyn Harrison Smith ’51, the first African American woman to enroll at Carolina; and Sallie Stockard Magness ’98 (’00 MA), the first woman to receive a degree from UNC.

Voting ends Wednesday, Feb. 28. The name will be revealed March 1.

The therapy dog will also serve UNC campus police officers, said Sgt. James David. “My team regularly conducts training on active shooter critical incident response,” he said. “It’s a heavy topic, and so I think having the therapy dog in a supportive role for that training will assist individuals in processing heavy material.”

Wylie said campus police chose a Goldendoodle, in part, because they are easier to train, are hypoallergenic and have good temperaments.

The puppy is expected to join campus police this week and will begin pet therapy certification, which involves obedience training and specialized techniques. She will perform her assigned duties with Wylie, the Goldendoodle’s designated handler, who will take care of her even during off-duty hours.

“She has to go through all of the training — puppy, intermediate and advanced — before we can put her in the therapy dog training program,” Wylie said. “I’ll be there the whole time so all of the training she goes through I will also go through. Any additional training that we decide to do will be what we feel is best for the community.”

— Cameron Hayes Fardy ’23

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